Bad apples, good movies
2017 was marked by great movies, rotten movies—and some shameful behavior
Well, unfortunately, the prevailing cinema stories this year would be the ones about all those demented perverts spraying their foul musk all over the place.
Celebrities getting deleted from the entertainment industry due to unsolicited, wholly unappreciated sexual activity certainly overshadowed stories of those we lost to actual death, like Bill Paxton—man, that just kills me—and Adam West. What selfish, childish, piggish, boorish, flat-out disgusting dumbasses they are.
The likes of Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, James Toback and Louis C.K. made 2017 a very dark year, thanks to past years of behaving like apish morons. They still walk the Earth, banished from the limelight like weirdo sex-crime zombies inhabiting some sort of “Creepy Entertainer” exiled zone. It’s highly unlikely any of them will be let out of that limbo to make snappy dialogue movies or tell jokes onstage ever again. (If you listen to Matt Damon, Louis C.K. should be forgiven because, you know, Damon is some sort of authority on this sort of thing, I guess).
They aren’t physically dead, but they are dead to us all the same.
Movie critics, too! Harry Knowles, the pioneer who started the movie news website Ain’t it Cool News, got outed for misuse of hands. I think Harry’s days of gathering movie merchandise in exchange for positive reviews of shit films are behind him.
Have fun swapping sicko stories with the likes of Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, you unholy bastards. And if you should do that at some creepy pervert party in a dirty bar somewhere, I hope the likes of Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino and Salma Hayek crash the door down, guns-a-blazin’, and serve you some poetic justice, preferably by aiming somewhere above the knees and below the belly button.
To the women and men who have been outing these creeps, I say keep on talking. Your industry isn’t all bad, and the majority are good people just trying to make a living while entertaining the masses. Maybe there will be a day when the sludge has been filtered out of the entertainment industry, and that could help set an example for the entire workforce. That would be a good day.
I’m supposed to be talking about the movies that made their marks this year, aren’t I? OK, here I go.
My biggest disappointment this year at the movies was Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Not because it was altogether bad, but because it wasn’t great. As a lonely, sad, middle-aged geek, I put a lot of stock in my Star Wars experiences. I know it’s pathetic … BUT IT’S STAR WARS. I wanted it to be the best movie ever, and it is only partially the best movie ever. (Mark Hamill is God!) Help me, J.J. Abrams with the next installment. You’re my only hope. Oh, man, that’s some low hanging Star Wars humor fruit, right there.
Here are my lists for best and worst of 2017. Let it be known that, at press time, I had not seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread—Daniel Day Lewis’s alleged last film—or Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. I will update once those cinematic ventures have entered my face.
THE BEST DARNED TOOTIN’ FILMS OF 2017
1. Twin Peaks: The Return
I’m throwing a bit of a curveball for the top pick this year. Yep, that’s right, something that is considered a TV series is getting my vote for Best Movie of the Year.
David Lynch kept me riveted to the screen for every minute of his triumphant return to Twin Peaks. The original TV show was far more cinematic than any TV show to come before it, and it set the stage for more adventurous TV shows in the years it was absent from the landscape.
Twin Peaks: The Return, which I still can’t believe even happened, was one of the all-time great entertainment experiences I have had on this planet since watching movies. It is, without a doubt, the best thing Lynch has ever done, and this is the guy who made Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart.
Lynch himself called it an 18-part movie and, I assure you, those parts come together as one magnificent journey into insanely beautiful dreamscapes. Now, I thought I was all cool suggesting this was a movie, but it turns out there’s been somewhat of a movement to consider Peaks as a film. I’m not that special after all.
No other movie scene brought greater joy than the sight of Kyle MacLachlan returning to the role of Special Agent Dale Cooper 26 years after we saw him smash his forehead into a mirror. The Cooper character split into three different versions, all masterfully portrayed by the actor. A large cast of Lynch mainstays, including many from the original TV show, and a hilarious Naomi Watts, chipped in to make this a meditative, often terrifying spectacle.
It also stood as a sweet goodbye for the likes of the late Miguel Ferrer, Harry Dean Stanton, Warren Frost, Catherine Coulson and David Bowie.
There were hours in this film that constituted some of the best moviemaking I’ve ever seen—most notably, a sequence involving the birth of Demon Bob during the atomic age that will haunt me for eternity.
So, I’m not only calling this a movie, I’m calling it the year’s best movie by far. I’m also declaring Kyle MacLachlan the year’s best actor. Sure, I was in my living room when I watched this, but so what? That doesn’t stop it from being a movie. This feels like a movie to me.
Hey kids, for added fun, look closely at my brother Mike’s annual cover illustration for this issue. You’ll find some Twin Peaks Easter eggs!
2. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh is, perhaps, one of the more underrated directors in modern cinematic history. Before 2017, he made two movies, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, both masterpieces. Still, huge accolades have escaped him, his unapologetically dark tones keeping him out of the mainstream.
That seems to be changing this year with this brutal gem featuring Frances McDormand as a super-pissed, foul-mouthed mom seeking justice for her murdered daughter. Not a wrong note is hit in this film, which is remarkable seeing as some pretty horrible stuff is said and done. It also manages to be really funny and fiercely heartbreaking throughout its running time.
I think people are going to take note of McDonagh’s future work, and I think McDormand is going to have a busy awards season, as will costar Sam Rockwell. Hey, they damned well better be in the mix for Oscar.
A movie where Anne Hathaway’s angst manifests in a giant Kaiju destroying Tokyo? Sign me up! One that transitions from such a brilliantly funny setup into something honestly scary about controlling males (personified by a creepy Jason Sudeikis) and the danger they pose to people everywhere? Well, you have one of the year’s very best, and strangely ignored, movies.
Hugh Jackman says goodbye to his signature character by taking things into the super-violent, nasty territory that was always meant for the steel-clawed one. He and Patrick Stewart combine for what is quite simply the best X-Men movie yet.
5. The Big Sick
Director Michael Showalter hits his stride with this unorthodox spin on the modern romance. While there is plenty of buzz about co-writer and star Kumail Nanjiani, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are the ones who stick in your head after watching it.
6. Lady Bird
There were some great directorial debuts this year, but Greta Gerwig gets my nod for the year’s best first-timer. Saoirse Ronan—whose name I have finally learned to spell right on the first try—will be in the Oscar hunt again.
Sally Hawkins will break your heart as real life, physically challenged artist Maud Lewis, and Ethan Hawke matches that power as her grumbly husband. This is one of those under-the-radar films you should make a note of and check out.
Scott Cooper reteams with Christian Bale after Out of the Furnace for one of the darkest, starkest takes on the American frontier you will ever see in a cinema. What the brooding Bale does here makes Batman look like Mr. Party Pants on happy pills.
9. A Ghost Story
One of the film year’s more daring ventures featured Casey Affleck (and some stand-ins) under a sheet traveling through time, his character’s spirit trying to find a way to move through the stages of death and let go. Rooney Mara ate a lot of pie in one sitting—and delivered one of her best performances yet as a grieving wife. Such a beautiful movie.
10. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
I thought this comedy from director Noah Baumbach and costarring Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffman was going to be an awards player. Then those nasty stories about Hoffman started surfacing.
Most folks go with the top 10 when it comes to this sort of thing. We here at the Reno News & Review see the need to take things to 20. Actually, I probably shouldn’t drag the rest of the gang into this concept. It’s basically me overindulging.
Anyway … here’s 10 more!
11. Get Out
Jordan Peele, known for getting laughs, gets some good scares in this audacious directorial debut featuring great performances from Daniel Kaluuya, Betty Gabriel, Catherine Keener and Allison Williams. It made me scared, and it made me laugh, the two hardest things to do with a movie.
One of the year’s most controversial movies is also one of its best, featuring a manically beautiful turn from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem doing his best work in years. Darren Aronofsky is a total nut.
13. The Disaster Artist
I’m getting a little weary of calling The Room the worst movie ever made because I love it so much. James Franco stars and directs as Tommy Wiseau, architect of The Room, and the results are a funny and moving look at what constitutes true artistic success.
14. Blade Runner: 2049
Ryan Gosling gets to play a quiet badass again (he was so good in Drive) as a new kind of Blade Runner who eventually meets up with an old Blade Runner (a never craggier and cooler Harrison Ford) in what counts as the most beautifully filmed movie of the year. Will somebody please give cinematographer Roger Deakins an Oscar. Enough, already!
15. Molly’s Game
While Jessica Chastain still won’t win an Oscar for acting her freaking socks off—man, the competition is stiff this year—she certainly shows herself off as one of our more invaluable actresses in this true story of high-stakes poker games and, yes, Olympic skiing.
16. The Post
I am a diehard Spielberg fan. My favorite movie is Jaws. I’m sad, and sort of ashamed, to admit I have not liked his last three movies, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies and The BFG. Thankfully, his look at The Washington Post in the early ’70s is a fantastic return to form, featuring great work from Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and, holy crap, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. Yes, I totally geeked out when Bob and David of Mr. Show were standing next to each other onscreen. One of my favorite 2017 moments.
17. I, Tonya
Admit it—when Nancy Kerrigan got kneecapped by folks connected to Tonya Harding all those years ago, you just knew there would be a big Hollywood movie about it someday. Here it is, starring Margot Robbie as the Ice Queen, and it’s funny, funny stuff. Allison Janney is a sinister hoot as Tonya’s nasty mom, while Robbie proves, oddly enough, that she was born to play Tonya Harding.
18. Brawl in Cell Block 99
Vince Vaughn plays the year’s greatest badass as Bradley, a dude who loses his job, gets involved in selling drugs, and then finds himself wading through the shit of the U.S. penal system, culminating in the movie’s title event. And a bloody, crazy, totally sick event it is. This one is not for everybody. It’s not for family movie night. No, sir.
I wasn’t a big fan of the TV It, but I had a blast with this one. One of Stephen King’s weaker stories is improved with this big screen adaptation, a movie that recalls the cool King vibe of vintage genre films like The Shining and The Dead Zone. This one stands with those as the best of King cinema.
20. The Florida Project
Sean Baker, the man who made a movie with an iPhone (Tangerine) proves he is no fluke with this free-form take on a single mom and her daughter (an excellent Bria Vinaite and Brooklyn Prince) living in a dive hotel next to Disney World. Throw in a top-rate Willem Dafoe as that hotel’s earnest manager, and you have one of the year’s great movie surprises.
I liked a lot of movies this year, so here’s a bunch of honorable mentions: Darkest Hour, Wonder Woman, The Beguiled, Wonder, Mudbound, Wind River, Stronger, War for the Planet of the Apes, Split and a bunch of Marvel movies—Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.
I could probably run off another list just as long. It might’ve been a bad year for news about movie people, but there were a lot of good movies to take in.
That doesn’t mean that an assortment of cinematic atrocities did not somehow find their ways out of cameras, into editing doodads, and up onto the screen things. There were many stinkers, starting with this list.
THE STANKY POO-POO MOVIES OF 2017
1. Justice League
The combined efforts of directors Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon manage to screw up a movie that has Batman, Superman, Aquaman, The Flash and Wonder Woman in it. That’s Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, and the movie still sucks!
Their geek cards should be revoked, and their admittance to San Diego Comic Con should be denied. May their comic book collections be pissed upon by vengeful geeks. May their pricey Sideshow Collectibles action figures be eaten by evil dogs. May they never be allowed to touch or interact with a DC product again. Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and now this. Hey, Joel Schumacher only got two cracks at Batman before somebody in charge said “Ooh, hang on … This isn’t going that well, now is it? Goodbye.”
They must be stopped.
2. The Dark Tower
This year gave us some great Stephen King movies, like It, Gerald’s Game and 1922. It also gave us this sad thing, a movie that should’ve been a miniseries, or not a movie at all. I think I would’ve preferred not a movie at all. Idris Elba deserves better.
3. Downsizing/The Great Wall (A Dreary Damon Double Feature)
A bad year for “Matt … Day-monnnn.” Downsizing started as one of the year’s better movies, then ended so badly it became one of its worst. The Great Wall, well, that was shite from the start.
4. The Circle
Yes, Hermione did something worse than her tone-deaf singing at the movies this year.
5. Transformers: The Last Knight
When there’s a Transformers movie coming out, you can just go ahead and reserve some real estate on your Year’s Worst list for it. It’s just a certainty, like leaves falling from trees, sharks eating extremely unhappy seals and apples smelling like apples. Transformers will always suck as long as Michael Bay powers them. He’s like sugar in their huge robot/car fuel tanks.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Johnny. Depp. Is. A. Whore!
7. Song to Song
Oh, the pain of including one of my heroes, director Terrence Malick, on this list. Adding to the pain, this film about a musician trying to make it in Austin stars some of my favorite performers, including Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman and Michael Fassbender. This isn’t just a bad movie; it’s a freaking tragedy.
Two of Hollywood’s more likeable and fine-looking actors (Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron) and perhaps the best-looking woman on the planet (Alexandra Daddario) can’t make this thing worth looking at. I don’t need to see a dead person leaking fat into Zac Efron’s mouth. I believe I came to this realization somewhere around the time I was in junior high, long before Efron was even born.
9. I Love You Daddy
I’m mad at this for a myriad of reasons. I’m mad at it because Louis C.K. chose to honor a stank pig like Woody Allen with a black and white homage to Manhattan. I’m mad because C.K., one of my favorite comedians, currently finds himself ranked among Hollywood’s sexually deviant scumbags. I’m mad because the movie truly stinks, even without the controversy.
10. The Fate of the Furious
I’m still haunted by the vision of Charlize Theron making out with Vin Diesel. It was like seeing Aphrodite mushing her face into an elephant’s spongy ass. I’m scarred for life.
And that’ll do it for 2017. Next year, naturally, has a lot of sequels (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Creed 2 and, oh god, Fifty Shades Freed), Marvel movies (Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Deadpool 2) and a Star Wars movie (Solo: A Star Wars Story) on the way.
What excites me the most about next year? David Gordon Green and Danny McBride teaming up for a new Halloween featuring the return of Jamie Lee Curtis. Hey, that’s a fresh idea by today’s standards.